Finding Rental Housing After Spinal Cord Injury

WAGSofSCIWAGSofSCI Posts: 232Moderator Moderator
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edited May 22 in Transitioning
Hi friends! 

Quick Question...
After you sustained an SCI, what sort of housing did you transition into? Were you able to stay in your current home or did you have to sell/ rent a new space? 

I am curious about this because my partner and I did have to sell our townhome of 4 flights of stairs and now rent a ground floor condo. We really lucked out with this one as it was the ONLY rental we found in an area we really like but also it is an older building that was originally build for Veterans. Meaning, the door frames are all wider than usual and its more of an open concept home. 

Things we had to think about when we were looking for a rental included doors frame width, height of all counters, bathroom space, was the place big enough to turn around in a chair, were there any lips or steps going to the patio from the door, could Dan fit under the bathroom sink (he still can't), could he reach the cupboards, etc etc. 

These are things that we would have to explain to the owners of the building. One even asked me if I could carry him up 3 stairs- lol! Nope, cannot. He is in a chair ;)

Please share some funny stories if you have any regarding rentals or housing, they are always welcome and maybe we can construct a post to educate the public around housing. 

Thanks a bunch!

Elena
Your WAGS of SCI
(Elena and Brooke)

Comments

  • BrookeUBrookeU Posts: 153Moderator Moderator
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    Commenting so I can follow this! My brother is trying to find his own place.
  • BrittanyFrankBrittanyFrank Posts: 25Moderator Moderator
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    It is really hard to find rentals that are ADA. But with a lot of research we've been able to find something with no stairs and a garage. The doorways aren't ADA & so there are a lot of marks from my wheelchair & walker. Has anyone dealt with that before? It's not something the landlord can come in and put new doors in. So for now we just make it work. 
  • iamdadmaniamdadman Posts: 162Moderator Moderator
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    @WAGSofSCI
    @BrookeU
    @BrittanyFrank
    When I was injured, we lived in a 3-story house.  It was our retirement home.  It was on the Olympic peninsula in Port Angeles, Washington.  It was idyllic.  We were about 200 feet above the water, could see the lights of Victoria, Canada at night, had bald eagles flying up and down the bluffs and even had deer sleeping under our trees in the back yard or swimming in a pond we made.  I thought the only way we were ever going to leave was feel first but.. the best laid plans and all that.  
    We did try to make it work.  I had some remodeling done; an elevator to get into the house, a stair glide to go upstairs and one to go downstairs.  We also remodeled the upstairs bathroom with a roll-in shower.  It was very tough and we ended up leaving it and moving closer to Seattle, in a town called Mill Creek.  
    I was newly injured and getting on the stair glides freaked me out, especially the one going upstairs.  That is how I injured myself, I fell from the third floor down to the second onto a hardwood floor... about 12 feet. Of course, I didn't have nearly the independence I have now and it was a real struggle.  The other factor was that I was still having to travel into Seattle two to three times a week for therapy and doctor's appointments.  It was an all day affair and included an hours drive to the ferry, a half hour ferry ride and then another hour to get to the hospital.  What made it worse was that in the summer, the ferry would have wait lines and it was literally an all day affair for an hour or two of appointments.  
    Finding accessible housing is nearly impossible based on my experience.  People don't understand what accessible even means.  Last year we went back to New York for my niece's wedding.  My son found a home that was advertised as "accessible."  My son spoke to the lady and explained that I was in a wheelchair and couldn't do stairs and would need a bathroom where I could fit under the sink and get into a shower.  She assured my son that the house was completely accessible.  Thank God my sons were with us because just to get into the house, there were steps.  The bathroom was not accessible at all.  I couldn't get under the sink and the shower was a small stall that had a step up to get into it.  The lady was not helpful at all but at least AirBnB gave us a partial refund.
    The funny story I have is when again we were back in New York this time staying at a Residence Inn by Marriott.  Not a cheap hotel.  Well, they did have a roll-in shower but I still couldn't get under the sink.  In fact, I couldn't even see myself in the mirror by the sink.  I went to the manager of the hotel and complained and she assured me that everything met ADA guidelines.  Of course, they didn't.  I went on the ADA website and actually printed out the guidelines.  But, here is the funny part.  The first time I went to use the shower, I transferred into the shower seat and was washing myself when the whole shower chair came out of the wall.  Fortunately, there was a grab bar that I just managed to grab that prevented me from landing with any force or impact.  I am 6' and weigh 175 pounds and was soapy from head to toe.  So now, I am bare butt naked, all soaped up and holding onto this grab bar with my wife trying to help me but couldn't get any kind of grip due to how soapy I was.  I tell her to call the front desk or my brother and not to worry that I could hold on to the grab bar.  While she was gone I slowly lowered myself to the floor.  A few minutes later my brother shows up from his job which was just down the street.  He is wearing a suit and tie and now he tries to come and help me get up and gets himself all wet.  It was like a Three Stooges episode.  Fortunately, I wasn't hurt at all and the manager gave us 50% off the bill which was nice and I left her the print out of the ADA guidelines. 
    So, if you are able to find something that even resembles an accessible place, grab it they are so few and far between.

    Joe  
  • BrookeUBrookeU Posts: 153Moderator Moderator
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    @iamdadman, I would love to see a law get introduced that requires hotels to make their rooms truly ADA accessible if they are renovating rooms anyway, similarly to the MTA lawsuit. I personally also think the ADA needs to be updated to have more specifics about what "accessible" means.
  • trevorsendeavortrevorsendeavor Posts: 33Moderator Moderator
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    I had to move back in with my parents for a while until I could get my home remodeled and accessible for me after I was injured. Although this wasn't ideal, I am very thankful that I had them to fall back on for about 6 months or so until I could get a lift installed to get into my house along with the . I have been living back at my house now with my girlfriend for the last year or so. 

    All those things that you mentioned I took into account as well! I widened almost all my doors, and removed doors from closets and other rooms where the doors were just in the way. I had to completely flip my bathroom around and redo it in order to maximize the space for a roll-in shower (which was probably the most difficult remodel). There always seems to be something that we are thinking of to change or add on that will make things easier!

    It is crazy to think of some of the houses or properties that people will say are accessible. I have been to many hotels that claim to be accessible and I can't even get into the bathroom, so frustrating!
  • garrisonreddgarrisonredd Posts: 107Moderator Moderator
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    Same here @trevorsendeavor I couldn't tell you how many hotels that claim they are accessible and I couldn't fit in the bathroom.

  • garrisonreddgarrisonredd Posts: 107Moderator Moderator
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    My current home isn't the most accessible I had to learn how to adapt to it.
  • garrisonreddgarrisonredd Posts: 107Moderator Moderator
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    new york is so inaccessible @iamdadman it isn't funny and it's one of the biggest cities in the world. The grand central station subway elevator is always out of service. 
  • BrookeUBrookeU Posts: 153Moderator Moderator
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    @garrisonredd, I posted this in a discussion about my brother's and my trip to Washington DC in March, but here's a hotel shower experience: "The shower...it's hard to explain, but it was a roll-in where the entrance was in the back left. The shower head (which was handheld but could only reach about halfway through the long, narrow shower) was at the front. He'd transfer into the shower chair, then I would scoot it forward far enough for the shower head to reach. The shampoo was in a dispenser attached to a high-up part of the shower that he couldn't reach, so I took a plastic bag, pumped a ton of shampoo into it, tied it to the handrail next to him, and made a small hole so he could squeeze it out. Engineering at its finest!"
  • iamdadmaniamdadman Posts: 162Moderator Moderator
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    @BrookeU
    @garrisonredd
    @trevorsendeavor
    I think the ADA laws when it comes to hotels/motels needs a lot of work.  It's ridiculous what passes for "accessible."  When I stayed at that Residence Inn in Rockland County, New York, I looked up the laws and read them.  There are pretty specific guidelines as to how many rooms a hotel should have that have a roll-in shower, handicap parking spaces, accessible access and egress, etc.  One of things I couldn't find was what an accessible hotel room should be as far as the kitchen.  The kitchen in the Residence Inn had cabinets that were all too high, a kitchen sink that had cabinets in front of it preventing getting close to the sink and so on.  I think I mentioned in regard to the bathroom, I couldn't even see myself in the mirror and again the sink was sitting on top of a vanity which prevented me from getting close enough to it to even use it.  Despite all of this the hotel manager insisted that they had followed the law to the letter.  Right now, I am trying to sell our home and I have had several offers but because my realtor cannot find an accessible place for us to live temporarily while our new home is being built, I can't accept the offers.  It is just so frustrating.

    Joe
  • garrisonreddgarrisonredd Posts: 107Moderator Moderator
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    @iamdadman
    I believe also the building codes are supposed to protect us but they aren't enforced.
  • iamdadmaniamdadman Posts: 162Moderator Moderator
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    @garrisonredd
    Isn't that the truth.  Have you ever seen a policeman writing a ticket for someone improperly parked in a handicap parking space.  I have even called and the dispatcher said they were sending someone and no one came.  We are sometimes invisible.  What are we like less than 2% of the population?
  • garrisonreddgarrisonredd Posts: 107Moderator Moderator
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    Its been times where people seen me with a handicap plaque clearly displayed and they stayed parked in the handicap spot @iamdadman
    which is sad
  • BrookeUBrookeU Posts: 153Moderator Moderator
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    Y'all, don't even get me started on the parking thing! It's always a milestone in my friendships when someone sees me call the cops on someone illegally parked for the first time. People get a little nervous with it at first, next thing I know my friends point out cars that I should call the cops on. I'm not one to call the cops on every little thing I see, but the parking thing...I feel my blood boil every time and just have to.

    I know this would require a whole overhaul of things and likely will never happen, but I wish there were different kinds of accessible parking spaces: ones with unloading zones and ones that are simply close to the building. I get that there are people who can't walk far distances, but a lot of them don't need the unloading space like wheelchair users do. 
  • WAGSofSCIWAGSofSCI Posts: 232Moderator Moderator
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    edited May 22
    @iamdadman
    @BrookeU
    @garrisonredd
    @trevorsendeavor
    @BrittanyFrank

    Thanks for all your guys's feedback and conversation. I know in Canada, we also have buildings that are considered "Co-Ops' that are accessible. This means that there is no strata but instead the people who live in the building all contribute to the maintenance of the building, which also makes me wonder...not everyone with a disability has access to contributing to this and also would need to live there with an able bodies partner who could contribute.  

    On a completely different note, my boyfriend and I have been living in our current condo for just under 3 years now and we are JUST finally having a discussion with our buildings Strata to have an automatic door opener installed...not to mention there are 3 people living in our small building who use either a walker or a wheelchair, as well as mothers who have a stroller for their baby. 

    I'm not entirely sure why though? we have accessible parking stalls in our parade but no accessible door opener? It all seems so strange. Any thoughts? have you ever advocated for this change?
    Your WAGS of SCI
    (Elena and Brooke)
  • WAGSofSCIWAGSofSCI Posts: 232Moderator Moderator
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    @iamdadman

    You're completely correct when  you say that "if you're able to grab a place that is somewhat accessible".. it's a very real reality.
    Your WAGS of SCI
    (Elena and Brooke)
  • iamdadmaniamdadman Posts: 162Moderator Moderator
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    @WAGSofSCI
    I just finished watching that interview with Srin Madipalli from Airbnb.  To be honest it got me kind of angry.  I have used them twice and both times had bad experiences.  The first time was last year when we went back to NY for my niece's wedding.  There was a total of nine of us and my son was in constant contact with the owner who assured my son that everything about the home was accessible.  To make a long story short, I wouldn't even have been able to enter the home if my abled bodied sons weren't with us.  There were steps getting into the home.  The bathroom was an even bigger disaster.  It had a bath tub and shower neither of which was accessible and it also had one of those old fashioned free standing sinks that was impossible to get under.  The bed was very high, the kitchen wasn't accessible and the path to get into the house was pieces of flagstone with lawn in between.  The only thing about the home that could be considered accessible was that it did have hardwood floors and wide doorways.  What made it worse was that the owner wasn't helpful at all.  Then in April of this year, I went to California and again my son  rented a place from Airbnb that also said accessible.  The entry way was lawn with a piece of carpet thrown over it.  The surface was very uneven.  There was a step in order to get into the house.  The bathroom had no way for me to use the sink or even see myself in the mirror and the roll-in shower was a disaster without any room for me to get my chair in there.  After looking at the interview, I actually tried to get contact information for Srin to talk to him about these issues but couldn't find anything.  I want to go back to California but have no idea how to find a place.

    Joe
  • iamdadmaniamdadman Posts: 162Moderator Moderator
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    @BrookeU
    You made me laugh out loud!  You have a good deal in common with my wife.  She will actually go into stores and such if she sees a car parked in a handicap spot and it doesn't have a placard.  She is fierce!  One time in California, she found a woman who was driving a BMW who had parked in a handicap space who was able bodied.  She was in a where else, Starbucks.  My wife brought her out to show her our wheelchair van and me in it.  The woman actually started crying saying that she didn't know she had parked in a handicap spot.  Guess she couldn't see the sign in front of the space with the handicap logo, or the blue stripes, etc.  
    The other thing to me too is the number of people you see with placards who are driving sports cars or monster trucks who do not seem to have a thing wrong with them.  I think doctors will give those things out as if they are candy.  It's a perfect storm of events with people illegally parking, those parking there legally but not really needing them, not enough handicap spaces to begin with and doctors who will hand them out to anyone.
    Thanks Brooke.  My blood pressure is now 180/200!!!  lol

    Joe
  • WAGSofSCIWAGSofSCI Posts: 232Moderator Moderator
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    @iamdadman

    Yes, I completely agree with you. 
    Dan and I took our very first trip on an airplane last summer when I was in a wedding party, to the east coast, Prince Edward Island to be exact. The price of a hotel was $500 per night for a standard room and so Air B and B seemed like a good option. Were we ever wrong. We have almost every "accessible" stay ask us if I could either lift Dan over a step or two or tell us that the  bathroom was claimed to be accessible because they had an installed handle to hold onto. Every single time since, the door frames are too narrow, the bed too high or too low that a lift wouldn't be able to get underneath it for Brooke and Evan to come along on our travels. It has been very, very challenging. We have even called them and asked them to adjust their "accessible setting" to non accessible as most of the rentals are hardly accessible. 

    -Elena
    Your WAGS of SCI
    (Elena and Brooke)
  • iamdadmaniamdadman Posts: 162Moderator Moderator
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    @WAGSofSCI
    The word "accessible" means so many things to so many people.  I get that but when they outright misrepresent stuff, that is unforgivable...
    jp
  • WAGSofSCIWAGSofSCI Posts: 232Moderator Moderator
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    @iamdadman

    I agree 100%!! While trying to find rentals for us to live in while Dan was at rehab., I had to look for a place that was accessible. This is still a topic that our friends and family bring up and chuckle at with us...

    So, the first 5 places that I viewed were deemed to be accessible but, were absolutely not. "Can you just carry him up those two steps?", I was asked? Ummm, no! Cannot. 

    We are really looking forward to the days that we can travel and access building that are inclusive.

    -Elena
    Your WAGS of SCI
    (Elena and Brooke)
  • iamdadmaniamdadman Posts: 162Moderator Moderator
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    @WAGSofSCI
    Elena,

    Imagine that, you cannot lift Dan and his wheelchair up three steps...it's only three steps... lol.  What is the expression, "ego is the anesthesia that deadens the pain of stupidity."

    Joe
  • BrookeUBrookeU Posts: 153Moderator Moderator
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    @iamdadman, your wife sounds awesome! I agree about doctors just handing them out. Do you know how many people I've seen who are almost definitely using their grandma's placard from when she had surgery last year? I definitely got the feistiness about this from my mom. When we were kids, my brother and I would say, "Mom, stop, don't make a scene." But by the time we were teenagers...we started doing the same thing as her.

    One time in high school, my car had to go to the shop for a few days. The parking permits were stickers on our cars, and I'd be driving my mom's van for the week. Since the permit wasn't on that car, I had to tell the parking lot attendant that I did indeed have a permit, just driving my mom's car that week. He said, "Let me write down the licensing plate number so I remember." Then he noticed that it was a license plate for accessible parking (my brother was in college at this point, and obviously my mom only used it when he was home) and said, "Well, you can park in the handicap spaces with that, you know." My 17-year-old self said, "I actually don't do that unless my brother, who actually uses a wheelchair, is with me." He didn't have much of a response to that!
  • BrittanyFrankBrittanyFrank Posts: 25Moderator Moderator
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    I have a question about finding accessible house and making reasonable accommodations. Typically I thought the landlord etc. had to provide any "reasonable accommodation", but I've been having a lot of difficult with this each time I ask for something to be done they place the bill and expense on me. One example is we have a dog park as a part of our rental complex and I put in a reasonable accommodation and asked for a sidewalk to be put in so I could access the dog park. But I was told that I would have to pay for the sidewalk. How do we find the line and fight for what is "reasonable"?
  • iamdadmaniamdadman Posts: 162Moderator Moderator
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    @BrittanyFrank
    This is some information I got off of the government website:  www.ada.gov

    The Fair Housing Act requires owners of housing facilities to make reasonable exceptions in their policies and operations to afford people with disabilities equal housing opportunities. For example, a landlord with a "no pets" policy may be required to grant an exception to this rule and allow an individual who is blind to keep a guide dog in the residence. The Fair Housing Act also requires landlords to allow tenants with disabilities to make reasonable access-related modifications to their private living space, as well as to common use spaces. (The landlord is not required to pay for the changes.) The Act further requires that new multifamily housing with four or more units be designed and built to allow access for persons with disabilities. This includes accessible common use areas, doors that are wide enough for wheelchairs, kitchens and bathrooms that allow a person using a wheelchair to maneuver, and other adaptable features within the units.

    Complaints of Fair Housing Act violations may be filed with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. For more information or to file a complaint, contact:

    Office of Compliance and Disability Rights Division
    Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity
    U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
    451 7th Street, S.W. , Room 5242
    Washington, D.C. 20410

    www.hud.gov/offices/fheo

    (800) 669-9777 (voice)
    (800) 927-9275 (TTY)

    For questions about the accessibility provisions of the Fair Housing Act, contact Fair Housing FIRST at:

    www.fairhousingfirst.org

    (888) 341-7781 (voice/TTY)


    It may be worth your time to contact and speak to someone at the ADA.  The reason I say this is because I found other sites (not government sites) that did say the landlord is responsible.  There may also be applicable state laws that go beyond federal guidelines.  I hope this helps and good luck.  Finding accessible housing is very difficult.  


    Joe 




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